Janesville88.1°

Council approves spending to improve plant

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
August 13, 2008
— Despite the soft economy and the impending closure of the local General Motors plant, city council members agreed Tuesday that spending $32 million to improve the wastewater treatment plant is a necessity.

Some council members initially balked at the price that would raise wastewater fees 30 percent in 2010.


But Jack Messer, director of public works, said it would not be cost effective to phase in the project.


And even after the rate increase, Janesville still would be in the middle when compared to the rates in peer cities.


Council President Amy Loasching asked if the process could be delayed six months until the community knows what’s going to happen to GM and also might have a better idea how many people will leave.


But City Manager Steve Sheiffer said construction is a year away, beginning in spring 2010 and ending in 2011.


Sheiffer said homes don’t have much impact on the treatment plant. General Motors, on the other hand, does.


The city figured General Motors’ closing into the projections, Sheiffer said.


Today’s economy is similar to the climate in 1986, he said, when the council voted to upgrade the treatment plant.


Plants are supposed to get about 20 years of operation. Janesville’s will have 25 by the time the new plant opens, Sheiffer said.


“Can we delay a year or two?” Sheiffer asked. “Absolutely. But with each year you delay, you increase the risk and probability that (we) won’t meet environmental standards.”


And Janesville’s wastewater capacity might be an advantage when one industry compares the city to another, said Jay Winzenz, director of administrative services.


With the loss of jobs, “I can really (understand) everybody being skittish,” Councilman Russ Steeber said. “1,500 people and families potentially leaving the community is always a devastating thing.”


But “we need to be on this project instead of delaying it. We could do a vast disservice to the citizens still here and the potential of the city to come out of (its) slump and move forward.


“We’re investing in the future of the city.”



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